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San Diego
Sunday, May 19, 2024

City Heights Apartment Projects Counter Gentrification

REAL ESTATE: $32.7M City Heights Place, $42.4M Plaza Del Sol Address Need for Larger Apartments

SAN DIEGO – Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., in partnership with Price Philanthropies, has completed a pair of City Heights apartment buildings costing nearly $75.2 million.

City Heights Place and City Heights Plaza, between them, have 135 apartments in a neighborhood where affordable housing is disappearing, replaced by high-end apartments.

Sophie Bernabe
Vice President & Secretary
Price Philanthropic Foundation

“We need to make sure that people aren’t priced out of this neighborhood,” said Sophie Bernabe, general counsel of The Price Group and vice president and secretary of Price Philanthropic Foundation.

Need for ‘Stable, Attainable’ Product

“We want to make sure there’s stable, attainable housing for the people here in City Heights,” Bernabe said. “This type of housing is really necessary because people are living on top of each other. The existing units in City Heights are so inadequate to house the families that live there.”

Known for accepting people new to this country who come from big families, City Heights tends to have smaller apartments that are “just not appropriate for the size of the households.”

Often, as many as seven people share a one-room apartment in City Heights compared to a citywide average of three persons per apartment, said Rebecca Louie, president and CEO of Wakeland Housing.

Rebecca Louie
President & CEO
Wakeland Housing Development Corp.

With that in mind and at the urging of community members, Louie and Bernabe said that City Heights Place and City Heights Plaza were designed to accommodate larger families.

“We really see these projects as a way to preserve affordability and make sure there are going to be homes for low-income families in perpetuity,” Louie said. “Gentrification is rapidly pushing people out of apartments that they could afford. We’re seeing rents going up above what people can afford. We’re seeing middle-income housing being replaced with high-income housing.”

Demand Outstrips Supply

Finding affordable housing in City Heights is “a game of musical chairs,” Louie said.
As welcome as the new apartment projects might be in City Heights, “It feels like a drop in the bucket. It’s just a fraction of what’s needed for City Heights,” Bernabe said.

More than 4,000 people applied to lease the apartments in the two buildings, and Wakeland Housing maintains a waiting list of more than 4,000 people.

Costing $42.4 million, the five-story City Heights Plaza Del Sol at 4061 Fairmount Ave. has 1,818 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 75 apartments, with a manager’s apartment and 74 apartments earmarked for people with annual incomes of 30% to 60% or less of the median annual income.

The 127,000-square-foot City Heights Plaza Del Sol has 54 two-bedroom apartments, averaging 850 square feet, 20 three-bedroom apartments, averaging 1,047 square feet, and the manager’s apartment of 850 square feet.

Depending on income, monthly rents range from $930 to $1,861 for a two-bedroom apartment and $1,075 to $2,150 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The project site is the former home of American Legion Hall Post 201, which was razed to make room for the apartment building.

A plaque commemorating the history of the site is displayed in the commercial space.

The ground floor of the building also has a property management office, a 1,617-square-foot lounge with a full-service kitchen and a computer lab.

Other amenities include a 5,822-square-foot open-air courtyard on the second floor, parcel lockers, and a bicycle storage area.

Most of the apartments also have balconies.

With a construction cost of nearly $32.7 million, the five-story City Heights Place at 4020 44th St. has 60 apartments – 59 for people with annual incomes of 30% to 60% of the Area Median Income and one manager’s apartment.

There are 44 two-bedroom apartments, averaging 810 square feet, 15 three-bedroom apartments, averaging 1,084 square feet, and a two-bedroom manager’s apartment of 778 square feet.

Monthly rents range from $930 to $1,861 for a two-bedroom apartment and $1,075 to $2,150 for a three-bedroom apartment.

The 91,400-square-foot City Heights Place has a 4,513-square-foot open-air courtyard on the second floor, a 1,115-square-foot community room with a full-service kitchen, and a computer lab, a children’s play structure, a shared laundry room, 53 parking spaces, and bicycle storage.

Partnering with Philanthropic Organization

Louie said that the City Heights projects stood out not only for having larger apartments but for having partnership of a philanthropic organization like Price with a housing developer.

“It’s rare for philanthropies to be involved in such a big way,” Louie said. “They’re really committed to affordable housing.”

In addition to City Heights Plaza Del Sol and City Heights Place, Wakeland and Price are partnering on the construction of Humble Heat, a $68 million City Heights affordable apartment project at 4341 El Cajon Blvd., due to start construction in June.

Bernabe said that finding property in City Heights that is big enough to accommodate large projects is challenging.

“City Heights is very dense, but the spaces are quite small,” Bernabe said. “It took us a while to acquire the land.”

Smithton Architects, based in University Heights, was the architect on City Heights Place and City Heights Plaza Del Sol, Sun Country Builders, based in Carlsbad, was the general contractor, and KCM Group, based in Pacific Beach, was the construction manager.

ConAm Management Corp., based in Kearny Mesa, is the property manager.

Wakeland Housing & Development Corp.
CEO: Rebecca Louie
HEADQUARTERS: Downtown San Diego
BUSINESS: Affordable housing developer
CONTACT: 619-235-2296
NOTABLE: Wakeland Housing has built 8,500 affordable apartments in 64 projects throughout California.


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